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Strong consumer support for meat origin labelling – but who would pay?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas+

18-Dec-2013
Last updated on 18-Dec-2013 at 09:53 GMT

There is strong consumer support for mandatory origin labelling of meat as an ingredient – but few are willing to pay extra to cover the cost of providing this information, according to a new report from the European Commission.

The Commission found that 90% of consumers would like to see mandatory country of origin labelling on products containing meat as an ingredient, but most were unwilling to pay more. At price increases of less than 10%, willingness to pay fell by 60-80%.

The report was based on an external study completed in July 2013 and assessed three scenarios: maintaining current voluntary origin labelling; introducing mandatory labelling for EU/non-EU or EU/specific third country indication; or introducing mandatory labelling indicating the specific EU member state or third country.

“There exists a considerable difference amongst EU Member States on consumer preferences and understanding of origin information as well as on the levels of motivation and reasons for wishing to have such information,” the Commission said in a statement .

“Consumer interest for origin labelling ranks behind price and quality in terms of most important factors affecting consumer choice. Strong consumer interest in origin labelling is not reflected in the consumer's willingness to pay the additional cost that would be incurred in providing that information.”

Under the upcoming Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation, set to become EU law next December, origin labelling will be required for unprocessed meat products. However, it also said that the possibility of labelling meat ingredients should be explored.

Industry trade body FoodDrinkEurope said it welcomed the report as providing “a fair and balanced overview of the potential consequences of mandatory origin labelling”.

“The report […] recognises that imposing mandatory origin labelling would bring many operational challenges for industry, would require radical adaptations in the food chain, and would result in considerable additional costs for companies and public authorities, negatively impacting on competitiveness and trade,” it said. “Furthermore, such an obligation – as the report demonstrates – could ultimately result in higher food prices for the consumer.”

The Commission will now discuss the report with the EU Parliament and member states to decide on next steps, if any.

The full report is available online here (pdf).